Police Brutality for Dummies

I’m impressed if you haven’t scrolled past by this point — gory videos, heated rants (from both sides) saturate the Internet this week.  As much as I support police demilitarization and Black Lives Matter, all the shouting does deafen my ears.  (Especially since this is not the first time.)  Protesters delay traffic, angry posts clog feeds, vloggers scream into their mikes — I get it.  But it doesn’t make it any less valid or important.  In the strange state of numb coldness I’m in, let me calmly distill several of the movement’s opinions into plain bullet-list form:

  • Anger is justified.  We all prefer calm and peaceful conversations.  While most activists of BLM have beautifully demonstrated such grace, there are furious people.  They can be impatient, rude, and accusatory both on the Internet and real life.  It is important to remember that police brutality is not a new issue.  Affected groups have suffered for decades.  The difference is that now their suffering is not silent.  Their frustration is pent-up, and we must understand its justification and righteousness.
  • We must also listen to people regardless of their shouting, regardless of how they phrase it.  If you are privileged, your support for a moral issue should not depend on whether their delivery is pleasing to you.  Angry ≠ too impassioned to be correct.
  • Furthermore, stop complaining about protesters or activists.  Civil disobedience is not meant to be convenient or pleasing.  Its entire point is to be disruptive.  That’s the only way 1) attention is caught and 2) oppressive systems are pressured.
  • The phrase “Black Lives Matter” ≠ “only black people are important.”  This is not about you.
  • The phrase “Black Lives Matter” = “police brutality disproportionately affects black people.”  That’s it.  The phrase does not breathe a word about white people or other races.  It states a problem the same way that, say, a marathon for cancer highlights a specific illness but does not discredit other diseases.
  • Meanwhile, “All Lives Matter” does not say anything.  It states something we already know: of course every human life is important, but the phrase fails to address very real inequalities and discrimination.  Its brush is too broad, thus glossing over hurting groups.  Usually, people say “All Lives Matter” with good intentions: directed towards cops, it does insist that every human is equal regardless of race.  However, “All Lives Matter” is also a backhanded slap against “Black Lives Matter”: it subtly denies an inequality that’s occurring.  Therefore, the phrase detracts from the movement against police brutality.
  • Color blindness ≠ Equality.  Denying race as a label does not erase racial inequality.
  • Some other minority groups take issue with the fact that BLM only highlights brutality against African Americans.  If your brethren are being hurt, call attention to it in its own right, not in comparison or in adversity to BLM.  Don’t weaken a movement of a truly affected group for the “sake” of your own.  Furthermore, the solutions that BLM demands will not magically only benefit black people.  Less police brutality improves the world, regardless of whether your ego feels included.
  • Of course not all cops misuse their power.  That’s common sense, you don’t have to shout it over and over.  That fact shouldn’t deny that some cops do go too far, and that should change.  And furthermore, (and perhaps this is overstepping my claim of calmness) where the HELL are the coworkers and bosses of cops who see this bullshit happening?  Why are they covering up and playing mum?  If cops want to clear their name and stop such unrest, they should be leading the rallies.  They should be helping reform happen and calling out their slimy coworkers.  Cops should prove their goodness, not try to save face.  
  • It doesn’t matter if the victim of brutality was armed, or a former criminal, or disrespectful.  A traffic violation should not result in a death.  A shoplifting should not result in a death.  A petty misdemeanor should not result in a death.   Nothing, other than an armed person directly harming the lives of law enforcement or others, should result in a death.  Police are trained (or, at least, should be trained) to address a variety of situations.  There is no excuse.
  • IN SUM, let’s collectively stop these circular arguments; let’s stop the “not all!”s and “what about”s and “but”s.  Those roadblocks aren’t solving the problem and they sure as hell will not stop the unrest.  Stop crowding against each other and just solve the problem.  Solidarity is key.   Don’t we have enough to argue about?

I’ve written about police brutality almost two years ago and, unfortunately, here I am again.  Once again, faraway killings have created ripple effects in my city.  This time, Rochester police have arrested over 70 protesters.  In a demonstration that I had not known about, in a city that is distant enough (geographically and socioeconomically) for me to remain passive.  A sickening sense of guilt rests coldly on my chest right now.

Below I’ll include some links that have illuminated my perspective on this issue.

“This isn’t a matter of us comparing the value of lives, this is recognizing that there is a particular burden being placed on our fellow citizens.”

-M.L.

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3 thoughts on “Police Brutality for Dummies

  1. Terry Lewis says:

    I love the clarity of your argument. Great logic, and your point of view can be applied to many other situations where discrimination is defended or at least minimised by the claim of “not all”

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